28 May-2014, Tasneem Nashrulla: The Durga Vahini is the women’s wing of a Hindu nationalist organization in India — the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The militaristic camp aims to empower young women to fight for the Hindu nationalist cause and to espouse the traditional roles of women.
At the camp, women between the ages of 18 and 35 are trained in self-defense to combat those who go against their religious ideals. They are also taught to adhere to the idea of a male-dominated society and to reclaim their roles as wives and mothers.
One of their aims, as listed on their website, is to stop religious conversions by “cautioning our sisters of the conspiracies of alien faiths like Islam and Christianity.”
Women who “forsake their normal female tenderness and affinity” and “protect their brothers” are considered role models.
A clip from the film The World Before Her shows how young women at the camp are brainwashed into believing they are naturally weak and need to be tamed. (WARNING: The video contains disturbing scenes towards the end.)
The World Before Her is a documentary film that highlights two distinct groups of Indian women: beauty pageant contestants, and militant Hindu fundamentalists.
It won the best documentary feature at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012 and releases in India on June 6.
In the clip, a social worker, Aparnatai Ramtirthakar, talks to the camp’s girls about their “duties as a woman.”
She tells them that women should be married by the age of 18 because “by the time they’re 25, they’ll become so strong-willed, you won’t be able to tame them.”
She emphasizes that girls should never leave their homes, and blames Westernization for women wanting an education and a career.
“Is it really necessary for you to leave your homes, just for your ego and go chasing you career? Have we become so Westernized?”
She talks about how her mother slapped her for looking at herself in the mirror.
The Durga Vahini camps focus on “de-feminizing” and desexualizing the female body, while blaming Westernization and Islam for increased sexual violence against women.
While dismissing gender equality, the social worker asks the girls, “Can you really hide your natural weakness or character as a woman?”
The clip then ends with disturbing scenes from a 2009 incident where members of a Hindu extremist group attacked women for drinking alochol at a bar in south India.
In this FirstPost interview, director Nisha Pahuja discussed the most disturbing part of filming at the camp.
“You know, more than the physical training the girls at the Durga Vahini camp are given, it’s the brainwashing and the blood curdling chants they are taught that shocked and depressed me. On the bus ride they take en route to their parade, they learned a few phrases that I simply refused to include in the film. Those were the sorts of moments that were hugely trying for me and my crew as well. We saw how easy it was to manipulate young minds.”
(Input source: Buzzfeed)